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Yesterday’s Federal Reserve report on U.S. manufacturing production (taking the story through November) tells me that domestic industry’s inflation-adjusted output is rolling over into contraction – and not just because it fell last month for the first time since June. As I’ll spotlight below, it was also disturbing to see multi-month worsts in industries where such output has been remarkably stable lately, and sequential drops in some other sectors that were the biggest since the peak of the CCP Virus pandemic’s hit to the economy in April, 2020.

Production in real terms by U.S.-based manufacturers sagged by 0.62 percent sequentially last month – the first negative read since June’s 0.73 percent drop. Oddly, though, revisions of recent months’ results were slightly to the upside, although hardly stellar.

Still, as a result, since February, 2020, just before the pandemic struck the U.S. economy in force, such manufacturing production is up by 3.07 percent, versus the 3.76 percent calculable last month.

November’s manufacturing output losses were so broad-based that only four of the twenty broad industrial subsectors tracked by the Fed registered any sequential growth at all. They were:

>wood products, which grew by 3.59 percent in price-adjusted terms despite the continuing troubles of the housing industry. Indeed, that was the best such result since March, 2021’s 3.71 percent. But the November increase came after an October decrease of a downwardly revised 3.58 percent that was wood products’ worst month since constant dollar production plunged by 11.02 percent in April, 2020. wave. Other revisions were overall negative, too, but the November pop means that after-inflation wood products output is now up by 0.20 percent since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus being 2.67 percent below calculable last month:

>printing and related support activities, which enjoyed its second straight sequential real output improvement after difficult summer and fall. The sector’s 1.58 percent advance in November followed one of an upwardly revised 2.75 percent in October that was the best such figure since February’s 3.13 percent jump. Other revisions were mixed on balance but the recent growth spurt has brought the industry’s price-adjusted output to within 7.92 percent of its February, 2020 levels versus the 9.37 percent calculable last month; 

>aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment, which produced constant dollar production growth of 1.15 percent. Slightly positive revisions helped the sector push its post-February, 2020 output expansion to 26.37 percent in real terms, versus the 26.29 percent> calculable last month; and

>computer and electronics products, where inflation-production production was 0.53 percent higher in November than in October. Yet decidedly negative revisions helped push this diverse category’s real expansion since February, 2020 down to 5.70 percent, versus the 6.32 percent calculable last month.

The biggest November losers among the great majority of broad manufacturing sub-sectors seeing drooping after-inflation production were:

>automotive, whose volatility has shaped so much of manufacturing’s recent fortunes. November’s constant dollar output sank on month by 2.84 percent, the worst such result since February’s 3.81 percent tumble. Revisions were mixed but inflation-adjusted production of vehicles and parts is now 0.46 percent lower since just before the CCP Virus struck in force, versus being 3.18 percent higher as of last month.

>electrical equipment appliances and components, where output slipped 2.41 percent in November. – another post-April, 2020 worst. In addition, an initially reported October increase of 1.92 percent, which was the best such result since February’s 2.29 percent, was downgraded to 0.68 percent. Other revisions were negative as well, which dragged down this diverse sector’s after-inflation growth since February, 2020 all the way down to 2.83 percent, versus the 7.07 percent calculable last month;

>furniture, which experienced a 2.02 percent real output decrease that represented its worst such result since February, 2021’s 2.77 percent. Revisions were negative overall, and in real output terms the furniture industry is now 7.31 percent smaller than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020 versus the 4.80 percent calculable last month; and

>plastics and rubber products, whose 1.84 percent price-adjusted output slip was another worst since the 18.63 percent nosedive in peak pandemic-y April, 2020. Along with mixed revisions, the November drop depressed real plastics and rubber products output to 0.66 percent below February, 2020 levels versus having been 1.18 percent above as of last month.

The machinery sector is a major bellwether for the rest of domestic U.S. manufacturing and the entire economy because its products are so widely used. In November, its real output dipped for the first time (by 0.23 percent) since June’s 1.94 percent fall-off. Revisions were slightly negative, and inflation-adjusted production of machinery is now 7.53 percent greater than just before the CCP Virus’ arrival in force in February, 2020, versus 8.31 percent calculable last month.

The shortage-plagued semiconductor industry has also been key to domestic manufacturing’s fortunes, and will be receiving mammoth subsidies soon due to Congress’ passage of legislation aimed at boosting its American footprint. So November’s 0.39 percent real output expansion is good news, especially since it was the first increase since June’s 0.79 percent. Revisions were mixed, leaving constant dollar semiconductor output up 12.40 percent since February, 2020, versus the 12.16 percent calculable last month.

Since the pandemic struck, RealityChek has been paying special attention to several other manufacturing sectors that have either been especially hard hit by the pandemic, or that have been especially important in fighting it. Overall, they experienced downbeat Novembers in terms of production.

The exception was aircraft and parts, whose companies were hit so hard by the CCP Virus-related curbs on travel. In November, these companies boosted their after-inflation output by another 1.85 percent. Moreover, October’s initially reported gain of 2.51 percent was upgraded to one of 2.59 percent (the best such performance since April’s 3.01 percent). Other revisions were negative, but inflation-adjusted output in this sector is now 35.82 percent higher than just prior to the pandemic’s arrival in force, versus the 34.14 percent calculable last month.

The pharmaceutical and medicines industry (including vaccine makers) saw real production down by 0.16 percent, the first decline since June’s 0.50 percent. But revisions were positive enough (especially for October) to bring this sector’s real output 18.11 percent above February, 2020’s levels versus the 16.71 percent calculable last month.

Inflation-adjusted production slid by 1.55 percent after inflation for the medical equipment and supplies firms that turn out so many products used to fight the virus. This drop was another instance of a worst such result since peak pandemic-y April, 2020 (15.08 percent). Revisions were mixed, and real output in these industries is still up 13.23 since just before the pandemic. But as of last month, this figure was 15.75 percent.

It’s of course entirely possible that these dreary November manufacturing output results are blips, and that the sector will keep shrugging off bearish predictions. But with U.S. growth seemingly certain to slow down markedly at the least, and global growth already weak, it’s difficult to understand how domestic industry escapes these undertows.